Thursday, January 18, 2018

Reboot: Legionnaires #54

Legionnaires #54 (November 1997)
title: "A Golden Age"
writers: Roger Stern and Tom McCraw
penciller: Jeffrey and Philip Moy
inker: W.C. Carani
lettering: Pat Brosseau
colorist: Tom McCraw
assistant editor: Frank Berrios
editor: KC Carlson
adult legionnaire: Carmela Merlo
cover: Jeffrey Moy
reviewers: Siskoid & Shotgun

Mission Monitor Board:  
Brainiac -1 (Brainiac 5), Chameleon Boy (Chameleon), Colossal Girl (Violet), Cosmic Boy, E-Lad (Element Lad), Invisible Kid, Lightning Lad (Live Wire), Saturn Girl, Triplicate Lady (Triad)

Biff, Fala, Officer Murphy, President Roosevelt, Proty, R.J. Brande, Runty Runterson, unnamed horticulture club member, police commissioner, policemen (all characters from alternate reality)

Boss Zogg and his Nazi gang, Cavendish, Doctor Regulus, Fleetfoot Jones, Kommandant Roxxas, Tangleweb, a kamikaze pilot (all characters from alternate reality); the Time Trapper (behind the scenes)

Some time ago, while the Legion was in the time stream, half of them found themselves living alternate lives as high school students in the 1950s. When they resolved the scenario, they found themselves back to the proper places in time (which was still the 1990s)...

It's the 1940s and the Legion of Super-Heroes is America's home guard against Fifth Column threats. After bringing in the caveman crook Boss Zogg, the teenage heroes are called to their Flying Fortress (a blimp) for a briefing with President Roosevelt. It would seem the Axis of Super-Villains has stolen an atomic bomb from the Manhattan Project, which they plan to use on New York.
The Legionnaires first go to the Project facility where they meet a young alien called Brainiac -1 who crash-landed to Earth and built the atomic weapon, but refused to deliver it until he'd perfected a force field that could contain its lethal fallout. He joins the Legion, bringing his prototype along, in case the Axis actually does detonate the bomb. In the ensuing battle atop the Empire State Building, the Legionnaire suffer heavy losses against the villains and the bomb is unfortunately set to explode. The Legionnaires quickly complete the force field device and manage to contain the explosion, at the cost of all their lives.
Then they wake up in the time stream, as their true selves, wondering just what happened before being returned to their proper places in history (whether the 20th or 30th Centuries, depending on the Legionnaire). Back in the alternate reality, the contained explosion continues to burn, and in the wake of the Axis' surrender, R.J. Brande inaugurates the new United Nations in the Legion's honor.
Euhmm… what exactly is going on here? Why are they dressed in these weird costumes? They look ridiculous! Wait they also have different names: Lightning Lad and Triplicate Lady. I guess it has something to do with the Golden Age WWII thing. And then there’s the fact that the gang is a mix of heroes stuck in the 20th Century and others at home in the 30th… I’m so confused! It also looks like the gang doesn’t really have powers of their own. That’s odd… Everything is a trick from a gadget like reflective clothes, super magnets and secret triplets. Only Brainy is actually himself, yet a bit more patient and gentle. Anyway, exactly what is going on here?
So, someone’s playing with the time stream and is messing with the team, putting them in danger in different alternate universes. I assume this is an alternate universe since they’re now dead and if a nuclear reaction was going on in Manhattan, we would’ve heard about it before now, no? I love how Cosmic Boy is interrupted mid-speech, saying how he will not accept being tossed and turned over and over again. It’s like whoever’s doing this to them wanted to show him not only that he’s not afraid, but that he will do as he pleases with them. Students in the 50s, heroes in the 40s… How will they confuse me next? But Lightning Lad is Canadian in this universe? WOOH! GO CANADA!
SiskoidYou're not wrong. It IS confusing. Without warning, characters from both books have been taken back to the time stream and forced into this new reality, and while I know what's happening (it's just like the story with Curt Swan as a teacher), it feels like it comes out of nowhere. Is there an anniversary that needed celebrating I'm not aware of?

But despite the clunky insertion of this story in continuity, I loved the hell out of it. I'm a big fan of Elseworlds - stories that take our heroes and puts them in another context - and the Legion reimagined as a 40s team of mystery men and women, with all the pulpy tropes, is more fun than previous efforts (including the Elseworlds Annuals from a couple years before). The names, the Axis villains, the silly gadgets (Chameleon Boy's is particularly amusing), Violet's secret identity problems being the only other Amazon type at her school, President Roosevelt, Saturn Girl as a circus psychic, the cover redress... I love it all!
One thing I do find interesting, however, is that universe doesn't collapse once the Legion is killed. The last page sends us back there to witness the birth of the United Nations and the crazy "eternal flame" that keeps New York's nights at bay. In other words, this isn't simply an illusion. Whoever's toying with them (no need to discuss this already) is creating whole worlds around them. Not that we expect to travel back there, but in this instance, I'd have like to. The other Legionnaires could be the post-war team...

Science Police Notes:  
  • All-inclusive Legion numbering: 1997/21.
  • The cover is a tribute to All-Star Comics #3, the first appearance of comics' first superhero team, the Justice Society of America. The Legion logos have been redesigned to fit the Golden Age of comics which is homaged within.
  • Unusually, the issues features the cast of Legionnaires currently seen in Legion of Super-Heroes (the time-lost Legion) as opposed to their 30th-Century counterparts normally starring in Legionnaires, though some characters from the latter are featured in the alternate reality.
  • Previously, Legionnaires had been implanted into another reality in Legion of Super-Heroes (v4) #93.
  • Some of the characters have been given code names more in line with the Golden Age, mostly by reverting to prior monikers like Lightning Lad and Chameleon Boy. Triplicate Lady is a combination of Triplicate Girl and such characters as Phantom Lady. Brainiac -1 predates Brainiac, though maybe he should be Brainiac 0.
  • Similarly, all powers have been downgraded to fit the Golden Age (most powered by gadgets, Triplicate Lady is secretly triplets, Colossal Girl merely very tall and strong), and none of the characters are aliens (Proty is a simple chameleon), except for Brainy.
  • The robot sentry defeated by the villains is a visual homage to those seen in Miyazaki's Castle in the Sky.
  •  Violet's friends at Leafdale High vaguely resemble Archie's gang from Riverdale.
  • The Golden Age Legion inspires the creation of the United Nations, just as they were symbolically important to the solidification of the United Planets in standard (Reboot) continuity.

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